July 27, 2015

Community spirit

Rarely in this day and age does a sequel top the first instalment, but a mere 2 weeks after the local school received a much needed lick of paint, the peaceful community of The Oaks was about to be shattered by a second rank of young, enthusiastic Americans.  Moondance had returned, and this time, with a vengeance.  Armed with nearly 200 litres of excessively bright and vibrant paint, the group surveyed its target: a 46 meter long stretch of marketplace; the focal point of the village.  The stakes had been raised and the pressure was on!
Marketplace before...
Youth however knows no fear, and within minutes of our arrival, the fa├žade of the building was under constant assault from flailing rollers and brushes.  The relentlessness of the attack soon brought the local residents to the scene, and before long, both young and old were helping us apply the initial layer of primer.  The entire expanse of market front was primed in less than 2 hours and after a brief stop to stock up on caffeine, the group (and in fact, the community) wasted no time in applying the colour.  With over 20 market stalls to liven up, the decision was made to adorn each in a repeating sequence of colour to rival that of the ripe fruit shining from their displays!  The market owners had also arrived by now with most of the women ecstatic with the new look and each took great pride in helping spruce up their livelihood!
Getting down and dirty
Who says you can't have fun while working?
Some owners joined in
With all the help at our disposal, the kids had more time to do what kids do best, and before long, their once clean clothes, not to mention any available exposed flesh, were transformed into a cacophony of colour that would rival the tie dye phenomenon of the swinging sixties!  It also allowed time for them to immerse themselves into the community and the whole scene was lit up with the infectious laughter and smiles of small children as they learnt new games ranging from ‘Simon Says’ to ‘Ninja’.  The day had taken on a carnival atmosphere.  It was a perfect cross section of the community, and for hours on end, all language and racial barriers were destroyed by the endearing innocence of youth.
Having some fun with some of the children from the community
Despite the best efforts of everybody involved, the massive project could not be finished in a day and by sunset it was time to pack up and head home for a well-earned shower before returning the following day to apply the finishing touches.

With the pressure off after a very productive day, the kids returned eager to enjoy their last involvement with the local community, and once again chaos ruled.  It was decided to put a few hand prints on to the end walls as a reminder of the collective effort of these remarkable and selfless decorators, but before long the local kids got wind of this new game.  A rainbow of digits now adorned the end wall and clothes become emblazoned with prints of all sizes as the bonds made over the last 36 hours were immortalized in paint on material.

The once dreary brick-faced market place had been transformed almost overnight into a bright, vibrant and fun epicentre of this typical South African rural village.  We even realised that some of the local wildlife had got involved when a goat walked past sporting a red stripe down its side after straying too close to the freshly painted wall!!  I have to be honest, when I saw the size of the task awaiting us I was not sure what we could achieve in such a short time, but thanks to a work ethic dwarfing their young age, and a huge community effort, all I could do was stand back and admire what had been achieved.  The delight on the faces of the market owners was evident as the ladies hugged and thanked us before showering us with free fruits before our departure!
The Marketplace after...
It is people that change lives, not policy or ideas, and the dedication, motivation and selfless nature of the Moondance organisation had now most certainly left its mark in this once dark corner of Africa.  I travel to and from work through this unassuming settlement but from now on I will be reminded of these 2 amazing days every time I see this dazzling stretch of colour.  Thanks to the hard work of a group of school children from America, The Oaks now shines like a beacon amongst its neighbours. 
Students from Moondance after a long day of painting.
Blog and photos by Ben Coley

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